Region’s hunters set for start of deer season

Imagine waiting until January to celebrate Christmas Day.

The thought alone is enough to push the patience of any child to the breaking point.

Thousands of hunters across the state have been in the same boat this year as they prepare for their unofficial holiday, the opening day of deer season, which kicks off Monday morning.

Luckily, hunters are known for their patience, because they are waiting out the latest-starting season opener in years.

Because the season traditionally starts the Monday after Thanksgiving, and because the holiday fell late this year, the deer hunt is beginning a full week later than it has in some years.

“The opening day of the firearms deer season is something most hunters look forward to all year, and waiting out those few extra days when the season falls late like this can test one’s patience,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl Roe said in a statement.

“But by 7 a.m. that first Monday, the wait all across Pennsylvania will be over, and tens of thousands of lasting memories will be made in the hours, days and weeks that follow,” Roe said.

The estimated 750,000 orange-clad hunters who are expected to trek into Pennsylvania’s woods and fields should see rewards for waiting.

Game Commission officials say the deer population is stable or increasing in each of state’s 23 wildlife management units.

When asked whether local hunters are anticipating a good season, Ed Noll, of Noll’s Gun Shop in Spring Mills, said it varies.

“Some people are seeing stuff, and others don’t,” said Noll, taking a brief break Friday from his busy shop.

Chris Rosenberry, who supervises the commission’s deer and elk populations, said factors like the availability of food will influence how successful hunting will be in any one location.

One food staple, acorns, have had a spotty year, said David Gustafson, the commission’s chief forester.

A late spring frost and a cold and wet spring in 2012 have affected oak trees, which has limited the abundance of acorns, Gustafson said in a statement.

Fruit crops, meanwhile, have had a strong year, and food has appeared more plentiful in low-hanging areas of valleys, he said.

While food and weather will be factors locally, it’s unlikely that the late start to the season will play much of a role, Rosenberry said in a statement.

The late start hasn’t put a damper on local businesses, which are benefiting from a boost in sales.

“Hunting is definitely an economic boost,” said Donna Hirschbiel, officer manager for Belding and Mull, a gun and sportsman’s store in Philipsburg. “November is traditionally a very busy time for us.”

Hirschbiel said business is good for the store, which recently underwent an expansion and facelift.

“I’m not sure whether to attribute (the rush in business) that to the new story or hunting in general,” she said.

Hunting license sales are also ahead of the 2012 pace, which game commission officials say is an indicator that it will be a successful season.

“Considering deer and hunter numbers are both good, the pieces are in place for a great season,” Roe said in a statement.

“That change lies in store for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who will take part in our deer seasons,” he said. “I hope each of them soon discovers that, indeed, good things come to those who wait.”